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Every culture has a creation myth, and many of them have striking similarities—they typically feature the story of the first man and woman, and tell us about the symbolism and meaning of their spiritual universe.
Most of the world’s peoples know the Biblical creation story of Adam and Eve from Genesis. In it, after the seventh day, God first creates the body of Adam, breathes into his nostrils the spirit of life, “and man became a living soul.” Then God created a garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. God then took one of Adam’s ribs and created the first woman, Eve.
At first all seemed idyllic eastward of Eden, and God gave them every good thing, and one command, “thou shalt not eat” of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. But the subtle serpent tempted Eve into eating the fruit, saying, “For God doth know that in the day that ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” And Eve ate of it and shared it with Adam who ate also. Upon which God was very displeased, and cast them from the Garden into the wilderness. He even placed cherubim and a flaming sword at the garden’s gate, to make sure Adam and Eve stayed out.
As God had told them, the day they ate the forbidden fruit they died. Beguiled by the world, Adam and Eve’s “fall” metaphorically represented human beings putting their own wills before God’s. Genesis explains why God has sent us his prophets and messengers ever since, to teach us respect, humility, kindness once again–all the virtues we symbolically tossed aside to eat the forbidden fruit, with or without knowing the true implications of that action. In my view, the story symbolizes humanity throwing away our original trust in God.
Adam signifies the heavenly spirit of Adam, and Eve His human soul. For in some passages in the Holy Books where women are mentioned, they represent the soul of man. The tree of good and evil signifies the human world; for the spiritual and divine world is purely good and absolutely luminous, but in the human world light and darkness, good and evil, exist as opposite conditions.
The meaning of the serpent is attachment to the human world. This attachment of the spirit to the human world led the soul and spirit of Adam from the world of freedom to the world of bondage and caused Him to turn from the Kingdom of Unity to the human world. When the soul and spirit of Adam entered the human world, He came out from the paradise of freedom and fell into the world of bondage. From the height of purity and absolute goodness, He entered into the world of good and evil… – Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, pp. 123-124.
I bring up the Creation story, one I learned so well as a Catholic boy, because of the sequence of Adam’s creation. First God created his body from dust, then breathed the “spirit of the Lord” into him, and subsequently God made Eve. They ate of the tree of knowledge and discovered their nakedness, as well as good and evil.
The philosopher in me can’t help but think those symbols mean that the creation of the human body comes first, forever, infused with spirit, giving the body its life-force. This occurs both scientifically and spiritually when egg meets sperm.
Our binary nature, both the lower animal instincts and our higher spiritual yearnings, may have led to Descartes’ concept of mind and body in dualism.
Progress in the physical sciences, and today in technology, have impelled individual and societal developments of the powers of the mind. Just as Freud, Jung and Adler proved with advances in psychiatry and psychology– giving birth to the modern raft of therapies for individuals, couples, families and even organizations–revelations of the mind will continue indefinitely.
But the search for our inner selves, the discovery of the reality of the self, requires more than just a mind. Without the proper tools, the job of finding one’s self becomes practically impossible if we only rely on one of our human components–body or spirit or mind alone. That spiritual search requires interaction and integration of our reasoning and caring abilities, and the proper balance between all three elements of our nature.
We have entered an era of great expansion in humanity’s mental abilities—and now our greatest task is balancing our intellectual powers with our spiritual development. To truly know ourselves, we need all of our powers.